New Delhi, Nov. 23: Bengal ranks second among states that still have manual scavengers, according to the 2011 census.
Uttar Pradesh tops the dubious list. In Bengal, over 2.81 lakh households in rural and urban areas don't have modern toilets. The occupants either defecate in the open or use dry toilets. In Uttar Pradesh, more than 5.5 lakh households do not have modern toilets.
Manual scavengers are still hired in violation of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrine (Prohibition) Act, 1993, the census figures reveal.
In Bengal, more than 14,000 households in urban areas get their toilets cleaned manually by scavengers. Over 1 lakh urban households in Uttar Pradesh do so.
Yesterday, the Union cabinet approved Rs 481 crore for removing dry toilets from urban areas and putting an end to manual scavenging under the Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme.
While the Centre will pay Rs 367.33 crore, the state governments will have to shoulder the rest of the costs.
"I would be personally writing to all the chief ministers in this regard. I had raised the issue with the Uttar Pradesh chief minister when I visited the state recently," housing and poverty alleviation minister Ajay Maken told a news conference today.
According to the scheme, all dry latrines in urban areas will be converted into twin-pit-pour-flush toilets. The government will construct toilets in the houses of economically weaker sections. The government will spend between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 for building each toilet.
"Since it is a demand-driven scheme, state governments should ask municipalities to identify households that have dry latrines and motivate them to remove the structures," Maken said.
Laskhadweep is the only place in India where there are no dry toilets or open defecating. Sikkim comes a close second, according to the census report. Although there is open defecation in Sikkim, Goa and Daman and Diu, the states don't have dry toilets or manual scavenging.